The movie basically has one character and one great performance. At the very least, you must be impressed by Matthew McConnehey’s ability to simply not eat. He must have been very hungry on the set, and yet he still gives a performance that reveals that he is a much better actor than the interchangeable rom-com roles that he often plays.
But that’s it. The rest of the movie is classic Oscar garbage. The Oscars, in case you don’t know, are an annual gathering of fake liberalism, where movies which reinforce stereotypes about being demographically different (mentally challenged, physically challenged, sexually challenged, or just a black person who’s salvation is kindly, white liberals who teach him to speak and eat) are passed off as self-congratulatory bologna in a mutual masturbation ceremony where people say things like, “Look at how nice I am. I even help black people.”
The central premise of the movie is actually a good one: After being refused immediate access to the latest treatments, a dying AIDS patient begins smuggling medicine into the country. This, in and of itself, is an interesting topic, as it could have explored ethical questions, and situations where there may be no right answers.
But that won’t win you an Oscar. The Academy doesn’t believe in the old idea that an artist job’s is to ask questions, not answer them. No, they want definitive answers, so, of course, we’re given a familiar one: It’s the evil pharmaceuticals companies, this time pushing an evil drug called AZT!
Amusingly, the movie has to occasionally sneak in little disclaimers (to avoid being sued for lying) that AZT and the drug companies probably weren’t doing this to be evil, and that they’re only being accused of it so that a movie about a disease could have a human villain. (The movie also ends with a statement that the companies simply hadn’t yet figured out the correct dosage for AZT, with the implication being that they weren’t actually trying to poison people.)
That villain is personified by some random FDA official who shows up anytime McConnehey has to deal with the government. Apparently, the FDA only has this one employee, and he can show up anywhere, whether McConnehey is being held in the hospital in Dallas, or by Customs at the border. Amazingly, the man always simply lets McConnehey get up and leave. The hospital, the police and even the border patrol seem to have no power to prevent him from walking out the door whenever he feels like it. The hospital, by the way, only seems to have one hallway and two doctors (one good and one evil) and the police seem to have only one cop in all of Dallas, as the same arresting officer, sympathetic to McConnehey’s plight, appears on the scene every time.
The movie ends with McConnehey interrupting a pharmaceutical conference and simply yelling at the drug companies, in a scene very similar to the ending of The Fugitive (a movie which also had a hard time coming up with a clear villain.) I would just like to say that the pharmaceutical industry has doubled the life span in this country, and I’m not sure why some people are always insisting that those who invent and distribute medicines are simply evil people who trying to kill us.
At any rate, despite the movie’s potentially interesting subject matter, the script is very underwritten. The film contains very few characters or ideas. Instead, they throw in this whole subtext about how McConnehey has to learn to like gay people. I don’t know if the real guy that the movie is based on actually was homophobic, but in the film, it’s one of his defining characteristics. And so he’s given a gay business partner who is, of course, a gay stereotype. Despite his heart of gold, he cares about little else besides dressing as a woman, making unwanted sexual advances, and prancing around in heels. The movie does nothing to show us that gay people are more human and, dare I say, complex than that. McConnehey simply needs to learn to tolerate these people because it’s not their fault that they’re obnoxious. Oh, and the movie makes us sit through an embarrassing, 80’s cliché scene where the gay man has to go see his estranged, rich father (who sits silently behind a desk in a mansion) and ask for money. Gimme a break.
My assement: The movie is crap.